More than 67 years have elapsed since the end of World War II (WWII). Yet the Japanese government still has not acknowledged or apologized for the massive, inhumane atrocities that the Japanese Imperial Army inflicted all over Asia during WWII. Soon there won’t be any more living sex slave (euphemistically called Comfort Woman by the Japanese government). Soon there won’t be any more living Nanking Massacre survivor. Soon there won’t be any more survivor of Japanese’ germ warfare attacks. Soon there won’t be any more survivor of the Bataan Death March. Soon there won’t be any more survivor of the prisoner of war (POW) slave laborers, and soon there won’t be any more living former Japanese soldier who participated in these atrocities.
Yes, that time will come soon, very soon. The Japanese government may think that by that time no one will remember about these atrocities. However, she will be completely wrong, because there are just too many reliable records of what happened during WWII in Asia, including diaries and other written records by victims, eyewitnesses, as well as Japanese soldiers, photos and movies, real-time reports by media personnel and diplomats, official government and military reports and records of the Japanese military, and oral and video interviews of victims and former Japanese soldiers.
The Japanese government still adopts the attitude that most of these atrocities did not occur, and claims that they were greatly exaggerated or invented by the victims. For example, just last month Toru Hashimoto, the mayor of Osaka and the co-leader of the Japan Restoration Party, said that “the comfort women system was necessary.” Shinzo Abe, Japan’s current prime minister and her prime minister during 2006-2007 has repeatedly said that “there was no coercion of women into sexual slavery during WWII, and there is no testimony from anyone in Japan.” He also recently said that Japan’s wartime actions should not be called “aggression.” Takashi Kawamura, mayor of Nagoya, said in 2012 that “there was no Nanking Massacre, only the results of conventional acts of combat.” Several government bodies, including the U.S., Canada, Netherlands, and the European Union, already passed resolutions in 2007 condemning the Japanese government for their position on comfort women . Apparently words alone are not sufficient, and more serious actions are needed by the world community so that Japan will acknowledge its history.
This article identifies several actions that citizens of the world can take to exert pressure on the Japanese government so that it becomes obvious to them that it is also to their best interest if they recognize history. We emphasize that any single action is unlikely to be sufficient, but the set of actions as a whole may reach a critical threshold to result in positive results.
Boycott Japanese Products When Reasonable Alternative Exists: Whenever there is a reasonable alternative, do not buy products from Japan. Unlike a few years ago, there are now reasonable alternatives to Japanese cars. The Korean Hyundai is essentially comparable to Toyota and Honda. The Ford Focus has been a very hot seller, competing with Toyota Corolla as the most sold car in the world. At the higher end, you have several alternatives to compete against Lexus, Infiniti, and Acura, e.g., Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Cadillac, Audi, and Lincoln. In electronics, computers, and cell phones, you have many non-Japanese choices. Perhaps the only kind of consumer products that you may have trouble finding a good non-Japanese alternative is pocket digital cameras. If we make such boycott successful, then it will hurt the pocketbook of Japanese companies which could lead to pressure within Japan to change the government’s political stand.
Do Not Select Tokyo to Host the 2020 Summer Olympic: Tokyo is one of the three finalists to host the 2020 Summer Olympic, with the other two being Istanbul and Madrid. Although hosting a summer Olympic is not necessarily a money maker, it does provide a great deal of political and public relation benefits that the Japanese government desires. Furthermore, it can help to revive a tourist industry that was greatly damaged with the earthquake, tsunami, and radiation concerns resulting from the massive 2011 earthquake. Recently a petition has already been introduced to urge the International Olympic Committee and various National Olympic Committees not to choose Tokyo to be the host city when they make their decision at their September 7, 2013 meeting unless the Japanese government officially acknowledges and apologizes for her WWII atrocities. In a little more than three months, more than 24,000 people from all over the world have already signed this petition. Please help to publicize this petition by urging your friends to sign this petition in the next couple of months and also urging your National Olympic Committee not to select Tokyo to host the 2020 Summer Olympic. For more explanation of why Tokyo should not be chosen to host 2020 Summer Olympic, read the article “Why Tokyo Should Not Be Selected to Host the 2020 Summer Olympic”: http://www.dontow.com/2013/06/why-tokyo-should-not-be-selected-to-host-the-2020-summer-olympic/.
More Community Actions Like That of New Jersey’s Palisades Park: In October 2010, the small town of Palisades Park (with a population of about 20,000 people and a large number of Korean Americans) dedicated a memorial plaque in front of its township library to remember and recognize the 200,000+ comfort women for the sufferings that they endured, and to press the Japanese government to officially acknowledge and apologize for the inhumane atrocity that the Japanese Imperial Army inflicted on these innocent victims.
To get a bigger-size photo, just click on the photo. Since the dedication of this memorial plaque, two official Japanese delegations including the Consul General of New York City have visited the Palisades Park’s mayor and other city leaders offering ways Japan can help Palisades Park on the condition that the memorial plaque be removed. Palisades Park’s city leaders have refused their request. As a result, this memorial plaque has generated a lot of publicity and resulted in the public becoming more aware of the issue of comfort women and that Japan has continued to deny her role in such atrocity during WWII. Similar memorial plaques are now being dedicated in other parts of the U.S. and the world, resulting in more pressure on the Japanese government.
More Actions Like that of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors: In response to the previously mentioned recent remark of Osaka Mayor Hashimoto that the comfort women system was necessary, the Board of Supervisors of the City and County of San Francisco (the legislature branch of San Francisco) on June 18, 2013 unanimously passed a resolution that read in part “the Board of Supervisors of the City and County of San Francisco strongly condemns the attitude and statements of Mayor Toru Hashimoto of Osaka justifying the state-sponsored “comfort women” system which forced hundreds of thousands of Asian women into sexual servitude for the Japanese military and denying the historical veracity of such atrocities committed against women and girls in countries occupied by Japan throughout East and Southeast Asia.
The resolution also criticized Shinzo Abe and nine future members of his cabinet for signing an advertisement in the New Jersey Star Ledger on November 4, 2012 that “denied that the Japanese Imperial Army forced women into military sexual slavery during World War II.” Mr. Abe was Japan’s prime minister in 2006-2007, and became the prime minister again after the December 16, 2012 election.
The resolution also stated “the Board of Supervisors calls on President Barack Obama and the U.S. Congress to formally ask the Japanese government to initiate legislation, to be adopted by the Japanese Diet, formally acknowledging the wartime atrocities committed by the Japanese government in countries that it invaded and occupied, apologize for the atrocities committed by its soldiers, and compensate the victims of Japanese aggression, including the survivors of the forced sexual enslavement during World War II, akin to … the actions taken by the German government formally acknowledging the atrocities committed by its wartime government and military forces during World War II.” Hopefully President Obama and Congress will take up actions along the suggestion of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.
Osaka and San Francisco are sister cities. Earlier the leaders of San Francisco basically told Mayor Hashimoto that he will not be welcome for a visit to San Francisco that was originally scheduled for June 11, 2013. This trip to San Francisco and to New York was subsequently cancelled by Hashimoto.
Comparison of Post WWII Actions by Germany and Japan: One should compare the actions of Japan and Germany, a country that also inflicted massive and inhumane atrocities on people in Europe during WWII, especially with the Holocaust on the Jewish people. In 1970 Chancellor Willy Brandt of West Germany fell to his knees at the site of the monument to the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and expressed the guilt, sorrow, and responsibility of Germany for the Holocaust. Germany has acknowledged, apologized, and compensated their Holocaust victims. Germany has helped to hunt down her former Nazi perpectuators. Furthermore, it is a crime in Germany to publicly refute their WWII atrocities.
What about Japan? As mentioned at the beginning of this article, various Japanese leaders have repeatedly made statements that denied the existence of these atrocities and have gone as far as claiming that the atrocities were the fabrications of the victims. All of these are lies, as these atrocities were well documented by many eye witnesses, including Western journalists, businessmen, diplomats, missionaries, educators, and other international observers. Furthermore, the Japanese teacher and journalist Tamaki Matsuoka has interviews of over 250 former Japanese soldiers, with many of these interviews video-recorded, confirming the Nanking Massacre. Adding additional insult, Japanese government leaders, including her prime ministers, have regularly paid tribute at the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo where 14 convicted and executed Class A war criminals are enshrined. This is analogous to German chancellors paying tribute at a memorial for Hitler. Almost all the top leaders of Unit 731, Japan’s massive biological and chemical research center/factory in Northeast China that inflicted unimaginable horrors on the Chinese population during WWII, were never prosecuted and many became leaders in post-war Japan or researchers for the U.S. government.  In addition, through its regulatory powers, the Japanese government has essentially rewritten their textbooks so that generations of Japanese already do not know about this part of WWII history.
Sometimes people who are not familiar with the history or people who purposely want to muddy the water will state that Japan has already apologized many times for their atrocities, so how many times is enough. What is important is not how many times certain Japanese leaders have claimed to have apologized for the WWII atrocities. What is important is whether there is a consistent and unambiguous statement to the world of acknowledgement, apology, and compensation by the highest levels of the Japanese government. The fact that so many Japanese leaders are still making such ridiculous claims and there is still a lot of confusion over whether Japan has apologized or apologized enough is a clear indication that such consistent and unambiguous statement does not exist.
Please keep also in mind that many of the so-called apologies often appeared just before high-level meetings between Japanese leaders and e.g., Chinese or Korean leaders, in order to provide a better environment for the meetings. However, often shortly after those announcements were made or after those meetings have taken place, contradictory statements then appeared from the same people or organizations.
More Education for the Public and More Pressure on U.S. Leaders to Act: In spite of the magnitude and seriousness of the atrocities that occurred in Asia during WWII and their implications for world peace, most of the people in the U.S. (and more generally in the West) know very little about that part of history, because essentially nothing is taught in American schools about that part of history. This lack of understanding goes beyond the schools, but is also reflected in the views expressed in the American media and by American political leaders. Of course, there are many reasons for the media and political leaders to adopt certain viewpoints, but part of it is shaped by their understanding or lack of understanding of the subject matter at hand.
We must integrate into American high school world history classes information on this part of WWII history. That is precisely why organizations like the Alliance for Learning and Preserving the History of WWII in Asia (ALPHA) focus on organizing Asia Study Tours that send teachers and educators on an intensive two-week summer immersion program to Asia to learn first hand this part of history. Upon their return, they can prepare curriculum guides so that they as well as other teachers can more easily teach this part of WWII history to their students. We also need to approach this from the top down and interact more with departments of education and school boards so that more of such material are included in their school curriculum.
We must also develop programs to increase the community’s understanding of this part of history. Again, organizations like ALPHA organize educational events for the community. We must write more articles and letters-to-the-editors for newspapers, magazines, and blogs. We must also communicate more with our elected officials to make them more aware of the importance of this part of history. We should encourage students/schools to organize activities, such as debates and essay contests, that focus on issues related to WWII history in Asia, and we should also encourage students as part of their homework or projects to write articles/letters to the editor and elected officials to urge them to take actions on this issue. This could introduce a large multiplicative factor in publicity and impact.
We must apply more pressure on our government political leaders that a policy of partially closing our eyes and partially colluding with Japan is not in the best interest of the U.S. and the American people. The U.S., having a “Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security” with Japan and the main supplier of arms to Japan, can be extremely influential with the Japanese government. The U.S. government should make it very clear to the Japanese government that not acknowledging and apologizing for their past atrocities is not acceptable. Continuing such policy will just increase tension and hostility with other countries and jeopardize stability and world peace.
Publicize and Support the Actions of Righteous People in Japan: It is important to point out that there are righteous people in Japan who recognize the wrongs that the Japanese Imperial Army inflicted all over Asia. Such people must mobilize within Japan into a potent political force that can influence existing political parties or form new political parties when necessary. Here are a few examples of such righteous people
With respect to the recent remarks by Osaka Mayor Hashimoto, a multipartisan group of ten Japanese female lawmakers called him “the shame of Osaka” and characterized his statements as “ignorant of,” and “trampling on human rights.”
There has been a group of Japanese lawyers who help former Chinese slave laborers to pursue lawsuits in Japan, lawsuits that have gone on for many years and have gone up as high as the Japanese Supreme Court.
Tamaki Matsuoka, a former Japanese school teacher who has spent the last 24 years of her life trying to find out and document what occurred in the Nanking Massacre. She has interviewed over 300 Chinese Nanking Massacre survivors and over 250 former Japanese soldiers who were involved in the Nanking Massacre. Many of these interviews were video-recorded. She has published books and made documentary films about her work on the subject of “Torn Memories of Nanjing.” She did all of this while holding a job as a school teacher and doing most of this work during her non-working hours, together with a small group of dedicated volunteers. 
Naoka Jin, a younger Japanese woman who has done similar things as Tamaki Matsuoka, on a smaller scale and focusing on what the Japanese soldiers did in the Philippines during WWII. 
There is also a Japanese chapter of the Alliance for Learning and Preserving the History of WWII in Asia (ALPHA). They, similar to people like Tamaki Matsuoka and Naoka Jin, often have to work in a hostile environment. But to their credit, they continue to do so and flourish in their work. 
The work of these courageous righteous people in Japan is critical to changing the Japanese people’s perspective on their past history. Developing this understanding from within Japan goes hand in hand with applying pressure on the Japanese government from outside of Japan.
Summary: More than 67 years have elapsed since the end of WWII. The Japanese government is still trying to deny that part of their ugly history. They should learn from Germany: Acknowledge and apologize for their past atrocities, so that a new harmonious beginning can be established between Japan and her war-time neighbors. It is only then that peace and reconciliation can begin. This article has identified a set of actions that need to be taken. The task is not easy. It will take a combination of all these actions, and probably a few other actions, to accomplish our objective. It will take concerted efforts by many people all over the world, including inside Japan, to increase our understanding of that part of WWII history, and then have the foresight to take concrete actions that is a win-win situation in the long run for everyone involved.
 For more information on these resolutions, see the article “Reflections on Atrocities in Asia During WWII”: http://www.dontow.com/2007/12/reflections-on-atrocities-in-asia-during-wwii/.
 For more information about Japan’s Unit 731, read the article “Japan’s Biological and Chemical Warfare in China during WWII”: http://www.dontow.com/2009/04/japans-biological-and-chemical-warfare-in-china-during-wwii/.
 More information about Tamaki Matsuoka can be found in the article “Profile in Courage and Dedication – Tamaki Matsuoka”: http://www.dontow.com/2012/12/profile-in-courage-and-dedication-tamaki-matsuoka/.
 For more information about Naoka Jin, see the article “Bridge of Sorrows”: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/life/2009/07/26/to-be-sorted/bridge-of-sorrows-2/.
 Besides Japanese citizens living in Japan, there are also courageous people of Japanese descent who are citizens of other countries. A most notable example is Michael Honda, a Japanese American and a U.S. Congressman from California who initiated and led the House Resolution 121 that condemned Japan’s practice of comfort women during WWII, a resolution that was passed in 2007.